This month's interview is with the birdwatcher and nature illustrator Ana Botelho. Ana has a tremendous enthusiasm for birds and nature in general. About five years ago, she embarked on the adventure of creating an illustration project - the Bird Colours - to share that enthusiasm for the natural world, particularly birds, through drawing and painting.
Let’s have a look at the interview.
How did your interest in illustration come about?
Ana's interest in illustration was reborn when she started birdwatching. “I think, when we discover the world of birds and get lost in it, we feel like recording their beauty, their curious behaviours and interactions in some way. Whether through images (photography, video, painting and drawing), writing or sound, birds are an inexhaustible source of inspiration.” So, in the case of Ana, the way to express her passion for birds was through Illustration.
How, why and where was the project created?
“The project initially arose from the need to give a name to the work I had been developing and accumulating, essentially illustrations of birds but also other taxonomic groups (mammals, reptiles and insects). As I didn't want it to be something centred on me, and there was the idea that it could become a broader concept involving more people, Bird Colours was born.”
One of the project's main objectives is to use drawing to develop face-to-face activities to explore and learn more about nature. Another, for the near future, is to create visual tools to support environmental education projects.
Some illustrations from BIrd Colours.
How do you think your project increases people's awareness of the importance of nature conservation and of birds in particular?
In a rather modest answer, Ana hopes that her work, at least, helps people learn about species they didn’t know existed. Well, that’s already great. And, yes, we too, believe that “knowledge is the first step on the road towards conservation.”
But, we are of the opinion that Bird Colours have the potential and quality to be much more than that. Projects like this reinforce the idea that illustration can be a very powerful tool for environmental awareness.
Does the project directly support any other conservation project or action?
Ana revealed that, at the moment, the project is not involved or directly supporting conservation actions. But, she showed openness and availability for partnerships with institutions/NGOs/projects focused on conservation.
Bird Colours have collaborated with CERVAS (Centre for Ecology, Recovery and Surveillance of Wild Animals) by providing illustrations and developing some images, and the project hopes to continue this or any other similar collaboration.
What is for you the relationship between illustration and birdwatching?
From Ana’s perspective, it is a symbiotic relationship. As she puts it, “illustration has in birdwatching the best source of inspiration and research, and birdwatching enriches and gains depth with the understanding acquired in illustration.” And that’s, in our opinion, a fascinating point of view.
Ana confessed that whenever she goes to the field, there is always something that catches her attention and makes her want to transfer that visual experience into a drawing. Having the birds so many interesting colours and behaviours, we can’t imagine how it must be. There are unlimited sources of ideas in nature to draw a painting.
On the other hand, Ana believes that drawing is a way to better understand something about a bird and, therefore, gives information that complements her observations in the field.
Ana Botelho birding in Santa Águeda.
Would you share an outstanding story/event you have had in the field?
To close the interview, Ana shared a story with her life partner she keeps in memory.
“A few years ago, when Tiago and I started birdwatching, we made a short trip through the central and northern interior of Portugal. We saw lots of species for the first time, like the white-throated dipper and black stork.
We were on our way to Rio de Onor and had made a diversion to see a black oak tree that is a Notable Tree. We walked a bit along the river, and I remember looking up to the sky and discerning a large silhouette and almost immediately, without being able to contain my excitement, I started shouting: golden eagle, golden eagle! As if it were the most spectacular thing I had ever seen...and it was! An observation of pure ecstasy, unforgettable!”
Though short, it's a story of pure excitement with a natural vision with which we have many similar ones that bring us nostalgia. The magic of small but meaningful moments like this is unexplainable.
A few more paintings from Bird Colours by Ana Botelho.
Finally, you can learn more about Ana Botelho´s work and get in touch with her or support her work through:
Online Store. https://www.etsy.com/shop/birdcolours
Ana painting in Penha Garcia.
Hope you enjoyed reading about this talented and proactive illustrator as much as we enjoyed having this interview with her. We deeply encourage you to explore her illustrations and paintings and follow her work. Trust us, you won’t regret it!